Sports

Talking points: Arsenal’s headache, Lampard’s masterstroke and more

The Brazilian forward scored a hat-trick in Sunday’s 5-0 thrashing of eighth-tier side Marine and could be more prominent under Jose Mourinho in the second half the season. Spurs have a jam-packed fixture schedule and Mourinho will need Vinicius to step up when he needs to give Harry Kane a rest. Vinicius’ impressive display against Marine was in contrast to Tottenham’s other Benfica loanee Gedson Fernandes, who was awful on Merseyside and could be heading back to Portugal this month. Dan Kilpatrick

Desperation or masterstroke from Lampard?

It remains to be seen if this was Frank Lampard buying himself time at Chelsea – or a managerial masterstroke that could prove the turning point in their season.

The last thing Lampard needed was to be on the wrong end of an FA Cup giant-killing – but even still, he named a surprisingly strong team to face Morecambe. It had the desired effect in giving Timo Werner and Kai Havertz the chance to boost morale, with both on the score sheet. And even for players like Mason Mount and Kurt Zouma – near ever-presents – the feeling of being part of a winning team could do wonders for their confidence. But the true test of whether Lampard’s decision paid off will come in the weeks ahead – starting with Fulham on Saturday. James Robson

TV star Wright makes professional football debut

The Only Way is Essex star Mark Wright made his debut for Crawley Town in their FA Cup shock against Leeds. The 33-year-old, who is better known for appearing on I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here and Strictly Come Dancing and being a DJ on Heart radio, has been training with the League Two side for a few months and came off the bench in the dying minutes of their 3-0 win on Sunday. Wright was in the Tottenham academy as a youngster before he was let go and insists his move to Crawley is not a publicity stunt. “Never let anybody tell you that you cannot do something,” Wright tweeted after the game. Jack Rosser

Arteta faces welcome headache at centre-back    

Earlier on this season, the prospect of Mikel Arteta not picking Gabriel Magalhaes seemed unthinkable. The Brazilian has starred ever since joining from Lille for £22million last summer – as shown by the fact he won Arsenal’s player of the month three times in a row. Gabriel, however, has been out for nearly three weeks now since testing positive for Covid-19 and in his absence Pablo Mari has excelled. The Spaniard has played every minute of the past four games and in that time Arsenal have conceded just one goal, winning every match. Gabriel could return to the squad to face Crystal Palace on Thursday, but Arteta will find it tough to justify dropping Mari. Simon Collings

A rough night’s sleep helps Chorley upset

National League North side Chorley overcame a Derby side decimated by a coronavirus outbreak, in a result which justified groundsman Ben Kay’s efforts to sleep on the pitch in freezing conditions at Victory Park to help ensure Saturday’s match could go ahead. Kay camped out in a tent to keep an eye on the playing surface. “I FaceTimed him [Kay] at 2am and he wasn’t positive,” Chorley manager Jamie Vermiglio said. “One of the heaters had blown and he was worried we wouldn’t get the tie on. I FaceTimed him again at 6am and someone else answered the phone and showed him fast asleep in the middle of the pitch. He’d slept here to make sure we got it on – it’s incredible really.” Jack Rosser

( Getty Images )

Time for a fresh start at Palace?

Roy Hodgson’s time at Crystal Palace has brought some underwhelming days in the cups, but few come close to Friday night’s 1-0 defeat at Wolves. Hodgson has often made wholesale changes and given fringe players and academy prospects a chance in cup competitions, but in a sign of the depth he now has on offer he sent out a strong side at Molineux. Not that the performance reflected that. Palace were solid enough defensively but their efforts going forward were almost non-existent. Hodgson has done an impressive job at Palace but Friday’s showing only adds fuel to the claims of those who think it is time for the club to move onwards and upwards when his contract is up in the summer. Jack Rosser

Marine still enjoy their big day

Marine, who pay their part-time players £100-300 a week, are set to pocket over £400,000 from their FA Cup tie against Tottenham, from TV revenue, sponsorship and the sales of virtual match-day tickets, which surpassed 30,000. The Northern Premier League Division One club hope the windfall can act as a springboard to propel them up the pyramid after being run ragged by Spurs. But their immediate future is uncertain. The Tottenham game could be their final game of the season, with football at their level currently suspended because of the Coronavirus pandemic. Dan Kilpatrick

Mitrovic looking to move on after Covid-19 breach    

It has so far been a season to forget for Aleksandar Mitrovic. The striker fired Fulham tp promotion from the Championship last year but his form has stuttered back in the Premier League. He has scored just three goals all season, with those coming back in September. Mitrovic has also had off-field problems after it emerged the Serb broke Covid-19 rules by celebrating New Year’s Eve with Crystal Palace captain Luka Milivojevic. Fulham boss Scott Parker insists the matter has been dealt with internally and the club are now ready to move on. That was the case on Saturday as Mitrovic was handed a start and helped Fulham beat QPR 2-0. Now he will hope to start making headlines with his work on the pitch – not off it. Simon Collings

( AFP via Getty Images )

Is the West Brom job too Big for Sam?  

Sam Allardyce has proved himself capable of pulling off near-miracles in the past. But for the man who has never been relegated from the Premier League the task of keeping West Brom up may be beyond even his powers. When the Baggies secured a point against champions Liverpool last month, it felt like classic Allardyce. Getting his team organised and tough to beat. The problem is that West Brom are all too easy to beat and seem incapable of keeping a clean sheet. FA Cup third-round elimination at the hands of Blackpool was a new low. Allardyce needs to pull off some spectacular business this month if he has any chance of another great escape. James Robson

Rowett hoping Cup win can spark form

Millwall’s trip to National League side Boreham Wood in one of Saturday’s early kick-offs had few wondering whether an upset was in store given the Lions have won just once in 13 Championship games. Gary Rowett’s players, however, put in a commanding display that they will hope can help spark a turnaround in their fortunes. Kenneth Zohore, making his first start since returning from injury, got himself a goal with the opener which will be a welcome boost. Their performance will no doubt lift the spirits and Rowett will be hoping their form can translate into a much better run where it really matters. Jack Rosser


Source link

Related Articles

Back to top button